Game Day Preview: Cents @ Vipers – Feb 17

The Merritt Centennials (13-38-1-3) look to continue one of their best weekends of the year against the Vernon Vipers (29-23-2-1) this afternoon.

On Sunday, the Merritt Centennials continued to roll on one of their final home stands of the year winning big over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 7-4. The Cents picked up where they left off on the powerplay as an early opportunity led to an early goal. Once again it was some quick puck movement around the zone, and a tap in for Evan Benwell at the back door to open the scoring 1-0. The Bulldogs would answer as leading scorer Ryan Doolin sniped from the wall after the Bulldogs started to put the pressure on. The Cents were able to answer when Jake McLean made a pass out of the corner onto the doorstep for Thomas Manty who scored his first of the game. Chase Nameth then scored on a cheeky play from the end boards as his no-look backhand pass found Payton Matsui out front who was able to go upstairs on Bird for the third goal of the period. Pascoal was able to bring the Bulldogs within one when he deflected former Cent Mattias Dal Monte’s point shot past Winter to make it 3-2 after 20 minutes. The middle frame saw the Bulldogs start to put the pressure on, but the Cents weathered the storm. At the 8 minute mark Dal Monte lowered a big hit at centre ice on Jerzy Orchard and would exit the game on a 5 minute major, and the Cents would get a slew of penalties in their favour in the aftermath. Christian Buono would draw a double minor for high sticking to make it a lengthy 2 man advantage. Despite all the powerplay time, the Cents would only muster one goal from the stick of Thomas Manty – a wirejob top corner glove side to make it 4-2. The final stanza saw the Cents stretch their lead thanks to special teams. Payton Matsui added his team leading 4th shorthanded goal after Thomas Manty found him the a cross ice feed. Evan Benwell added his 9th of the season after deflecting home a Talon Zakall point shot to make it 6-3. Chase Klassen would score his first in the BCHL in the final minute for the Bulldogs to make it 6-4, but that would lead to the Dogs pulling the goalie and gave Payton Matsui a crack at the empty net and he’d oblige with his hat trick goal and seal the win 7-4.

The Vernon Vipers come into the game 3-2 in their last 5 and picked up a big 4-2 victory over the West Kelowna Warriors earlier this weekend. West K opened the scoring with a goal from John Evans, but the Vipers were able to answer with a goal in the 2nd period from Dawson Holt to send it to the third tied at 1-1. Logan Cash and Chris Felton were able to tally early in the 3rd to give the Vipers the 2 goal lead, before West K made a late push scoring shorthanded, but the Vipers were able to ice the game with an empty netter. Vernon finds themselves in the Interior Division shuffle. The 1 and 2 seeds have been locked down, but spots 3-5 are up for grabs between the Vipers, Silverbacks, and Wild. Once again the Cents have a chance to wreak havoc by playing spoiler.

The season series sits 0-4-1 for the Cents. The most recent loss came a couple of Tuesday’s ago by a score of 6-3. Before that the Vipers barely escaped with a shootout victory in the Teddy Bear Toss miracle 8-7, They’ve also won by scores of 8-3, 3-2, and 5-2 throughout the year, but the Cents despite being out of the playoff race and short bodies have been playing some inspired hockey of late and are looking to continue that on a Family Day Monday.

The Cents got a huge night from their top scorer Payton Matsui who has shot up 5 points to 44, Christian Buono has 34 points, and Thomas Manty has 31.

The Vipers are led by top 10 scorer Matt Kowalski with 56 points, Dawson Holt and Captain Connor Marritt have 43 points a piece.

The special teams battle sees the Cents starting to heat up with the extra man.

Powerplay:                          Penalty Kill:

Cents – 13.4% (17th)     Cents – 71.9% (17th)

Vipers – 16.7% (11th)   Vipers – 84.9% (5th)

Both Cent netminders are feeling good about their game after picking up wins in their most recent outings. Tanner Marshall is 7-18 with a .881 SV% and a 4.86 GAA. Ryan Winter is 5-19-1 with a .892 SV%, a 4.38 GAA, and 1 shutout.

The Vipers are led by Reilly Herbst in the blue paint. He’s 19-9-2 with a 2.90 GAA, a .902 SV% and 1 shutout. Keegan Karki is the newest goaltender in Vernon and is 3-2 with an .894 SV% and a 2.89 GAA.

Assistant Coach Paul Barnes says the Cents need to put together another full game effort.

“The pressure is off and the team is playing well. It’s another night where if we play the full 60 minutes we will get rewarded.”

The Cents will look to put a full sweep on the weekend this afternoon.

Puck drop 2pm. Pregame 1:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

A reminder to sign up for the Cents online 50/50 which has now reached a pot of $2292 with the draw going Tuesday afternoon here: